There are lots of things you need to know when taking care of a newborn kitten, especially if they don't have a mother. Today, our Palmyra vets explain how you can take care of a newborn kitten and when you should bring them to the vet.
How to Care for a Kitten
Almost everyone will agree that kittens are adorable, and they are lovable family pets. But, they have a very specific set of requirements that need to be met, and these needs change during each stage of their life. If something is missed or goes wrong, it could impact your kitten's longevity and overall health. In this blog, we talk about how you can care for your new kitten and help make sure they have a long and healthy life.
Caring for a Newborn Kitten
A kitten is considered a newborn when they are 0 - 4 weeks old. At this time they are still learning how to walk, meow, and regulate the temperature of their body. If they have a mother, their mother will be able to do most of the work, including feeding. All you will need to do is ensure the mother is healthy and that they are kept in an environment that is safe and warm. You will have to cover the floor of their crate/area with a blanket and make sure they have a warm bed to lay on. But, if the kitten does not have a mother the first thing you must do is bring them to the vet. Your veterinarian can evaluate the health of the kitten and let you know what their requirements are.
Keeping a Newborn Kitten Warm
If the kitten doesn't have a mother you will have to do more to help them stay warm, such as putting a heating disk in the crate or placing a heating pad on low heat beneath a blanket in their cage. We also recommend crafting a little nest out of blankets that the kitten can lay in for comfort. It's imperative to make sure that the heating pad isn't too hot by touching it with your hands and giving them a comfortable place in their cage that does not have a heating item for them to go to if they get too warm.
You should continue to provide your kitten with a heating source until they are about 6 weeks old. If kittens get too cold they will catch hypothermia, which is why their area should be kept at 85oF or 29oC.
Feeding a Newborn Kitten
Another thing you'll need to do for a newborn kitten that doesn't have a mother is to feed them and make sure they receive the right amount of nutrients.
You will have to bottle feed your kitten a special kitten formula approximately every 2-4 hours. Although every kitten is different, your veterinarian will be able to inform you of the best formula to use, how much to feed them and how frequently you should be feeding your kitten.
For kittens to grow healthily, they will need to gain approximately ½ ounces (14 grams) per day or 4 ounces (113 grams) a week. Never give your cat cow milk and remember to always feed them the same formula.
Another key fact you should know is that for your kitty to digest food properly it will have to be kept warm.
As Your Kitten Gets Older
When the kitten you are caring for is around 5/6 to 10 weeks old they should gradually stop being bottle fed or fed by their mothers and start eating high protein meals around 3 to 4 times a day. You can start this by pouring the formula into a food bowl and maybe adding a bit of softened hard food or canned soft food to help ease them into the process.
At this stage, their motor skills will be improving, and they will start becoming adventurous. When your kitten is 2-4 months old it's critical to keep a close eye on them to make sure they don't get themselves into trouble. They will need lots of supervision and hands-on bonding playtime.
Your furry friend will start entering their adolescent days when they are 4 - 6 months old. This is when they are generally very troublesome and might require some behavioral modification. At this time you should also start considering having them spayed or neutered before they reach the 6 - 8 month mark.
Preventive Care For Kittens
No matter how old your kitten is you should bring them to the vet for their first appointment during the first week they are in your care. Your veterinarian will assess your kitty's health and tell you what their dietary requirements are. This also gives you the chance to ask any questions you might have about caring for your young feline companion.
It's essential to make sure your kitten receives routine preventive care including vaccinations, regular wellness exams, and parasite prevention.
Regular wellness exams provide your veterinarian with the opportunity to examine your kitten's overall health and well-being, as well as their dietary needs. Your vet will also be able to detect the early signs of any arising disease before they become severe and harder and more expensive to treat.
You also have to ensure your kitten gets all of its vaccinations and parasite prevention on schedule. Your kitten should come in for their first round of shots when they are 6 to 8 weeks old, and have them spayed or neutered when they are 5 to 6 months old. This prevents any serious diseases or conditions from arising in the first place.
What Could Go Wrong?
When caring for a kitten there are many things you need to keep an eye out for in every stage of your kitten's life, which could indicate a problem or even a veterinary emergency. If you see your kitten displaying any of the following signs call your vet immediately to schedule an appointment.
Here is what you need to keep an eye out for in a newborn kitten:
- Refusing food (especially if being bottle-fed)
- Delays or difficulties in motor skills or coordination
When your kitten is 4 weeks old or older you still need to keep an eye out for the signs above in addition to these behavioral signs:
- Fears and other concerning behaviors that should be managed when they are still young
- Signs of play biting or aggression
- Litter box usage/ not using the litter box